Chris Emery sizes up the political struggle happening behind the scenes:

The Supreme Leader is expected to lead Friday prayers in Tehran, where he will doubtless restate his calls for restraint. Hundreds of thousands of supporters on both sides will attend to see if Ayatollah Khamenei offers any more openings or whether he is drawing a line under the election. It appears that the Supreme Leader faces a stark decision of either further concessions or repression. In truth, neither option has much appeal to him. Khamenei could, as is his sole constitutional authority, declare martial law. To do so, however, would only demonstrate his personal, and the Islamic Republic’s structural, failure.

Mousavi also faces a dilemma.

He is well aware that the supreme leader perceives the mood on the streets as a potential threat to the very notion of an Islamic Republic. Mousavi, a former prime minister and acolyte of Ayatollah Khomeini, is no revolutionary. He will thus come under intense pressure from the supreme leader’s office to reign in some of his supporters for the good of the republic. This is already the reason why Mousavi has asked for silent demonstrations and urged supporters to shout purely Islamic slogans. Khamenei has, however, so boxed himself in following his early endorsement of Ahmadinejad, that he has little to offer Mousavi which could appease him or his followers.

It is unlikely that public pressure, combined with the efforts of a politically powerful clique, will remove Ahmadinejad from power. This crisis is, however, as much a clash of competing cultures in Iran as it is about political transparency. It’s not just about young and more affluent North Tehranis facing off against the pious anti-American poor. Tensions in education, world outlook, social ethics, consumerism and even fashion have been exposed by an ostensibly political crisis. Regardless of how events unfold in the coming weeks, the authorities will have to construct a longer-term response to these competing lifestyles and aspirations.

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